Condor Thomas Cook AG
German airline may reconsider west Florida for routes
By TED JACKOVICS | The Tampa Tribune
CLEARWATER – A German airline that turned its back on four West Florida airports earlier this year could reconsider launching international service here in 2012, a Pinellas airport official said Wednesday.
“We will have another opportunity with Condor,” St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport director of air service development Jeff Clauss said.
The Pinellas airport along with Tampa International, Sarasota Bradenton International and Southwest Florida International in Fort Myers sought twice weekly Condor flights serving Frankfurt, Germany.
Condor backed off, publicly citing worries about the effect of the Gulf oil spill on Florida tourism. In e-mails to airport officials, Condor cited issues ranging from what the airline said were insufficient incentive packages that Tampa offered to international flight facilities that would need upgrades in Sarasota-Bradenton.
The issue of attracting more international air service in the shadows of two Orlando airports and their multiple theme park draws is bound to become more prominent in coming months, as a new director with a marketing background from Dallas takes over at Tampa International Airport on Jan. 1.
Tampa business officials launched an on-line project along with airport staff earlier this year to try to determine demand for new destinations, in particular international flights.
Pinellas tourism officials, whose county airport offers seasonal flights to Canada, pointed out the challenge they have to recruit international flights in the wake of Orlando Sanford International Airport securing low-fare scheduled service to Amsterdam Airport Schipol in the Netherlands beginning in June.
“Being in close proximity to Orlando has its benefits,” said DT Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, the Pinellas County tourism marketing group, referring to visitors who combine a Pinellas beach vacation with their Orlando visit.
“The flip side is it’s very expensive for an airline to set up airport and ticketing space to add a flight to a single destination.”
Pinellas markets heavily in Orlando with 25.5 percent of Pinellas overnight visitors who used air travel on their trips in October flying into Orlando International and the Sanford airports, compared with 68.4 percent using Tampa International and 3 percent using Miami International.
Nearly 62 percent of Pinellas overnight visitors from Europe in October used Orlando International and Sanford, compared with 26.7 percent at Tampa International, which has one flight five days a week serving London, and 8.3 percent at Miami.
British Airways will expand its Tampa-to-London service to seven days a week in March, after Tampa International agreed to reduce federal inspection station fees and providing billboard marketing for British Airways.
U.S. airports are limited by federal law as to the extent of incentives they can provide for new airline service, and are basically limited to reducing airport fees.
Officials at Sanford were not available to comment on what incentives they might be providing to Dutch Airline ArkeFly.
In a separate marketing deal, Pinellas tourism officials are investing $750,000, a portion of which involves a partnership with JetBlue Airways, to promote visitors packages in New York in February and March.
The marketing project will put ads in 567 subway cars, on two double-decker buses and on 1,400 elevator screens in office buildings suggesting New Yorkers buy an air-hotel package to Pinellas County in 2011.